SA Open signs up another world star

2008-11-18 00:00

IAN Smith, the CEO of the South African Tennis Association (Sata), said yesterday that another well-known player, in the form of popular Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus, has been added to the line-up for the SA Open.

Baghdatis joins a pair of top players who have already signed up for the SA Open tennis tournament, this country’s flagship event, which takes place at Montecasino in Johannesburg from February 2 to 8.

Smith said from Johannesburg yesterday that he was delighted to announce a third major player for the SA Open.

“Hopefully it doesn’t end there as we are in negotiations with some other leading players and hope to make an announcement soon,” Smith said.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the in-form Frenchman currently ranked seventh in the world, and David Ferrer of Spain, who recently slipped out of the world’s top 10 and is now ranked in 12th place, have already booked their flights to Johannesburg.

The 23-year-old Baghdatis burst on to the world scene two years ago when he reached the final of the Australian Open, only to lose to Roger Federer. The extrovert Cypriot showed early promise in his career and was the best junior in the world five years ago.

Baghdatis has been ranked as high as number eight in the world, but a recent spate of injuries has seen his ranking drop to 100. He is coached by Swede Peter Lundgren, who coached Roger Federer early in his career.

Lundgren also knows South African conditions as he competed in the SA Open during his playing days.

Tsonga has had a great run in recent weeks and qualified for the elite Masters Cup after winning the Paris Masters.

The season’s top eight singles players and doubles teams earn berths at the Masters Cup, the circuit-ending championship which was held in China this month.

Ferrer has had a strenuous year and it is anticipated that he will be back to his old self after a good rest over the festive season.

The unique venue at Montecasino has been designed to provide players and fans with an intimate “theatre-feel” to the SA Open matches.

Four tennis courts, two of which will be used for the tournament itself and the other two for practice purposes, as well as the qualifying rounds, set the scene. The centre court will have seats for 3 000 fans, while court one is expected to accommodate 1 500 tennis lovers.

Tickets for the tournament will be available at Computicket from December 1.

The reasonable prices range from R25 for a day session on court one to R150 for the final on centre court.

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